A helicopter goes down not far from where Andrea, Michonne and Michonne's pack zombies are walking. They see the smoke from the wreckage and decide to investigate. Andrea is pretty sick by now so Michonne chains the zombies to a tree and leaves Andrea there with them, handing her friend a gun just in case. She checks out the 'copter wreckage, sword in hand. There are a couple of dead soldiers scattered all over the ground but before she can really search for survivors, she hears approaching vehicles. Michonne goes back to Andrea's hiding spot and they crouch in the underbrush, watching.
Several trucks drive up and a bunch of men get out. The leader, a tall man wearing a vest, warns his men not to waste ammunition if they can help it, so the men put down a number of approaching zombies hand to hand. They pull the still-breathing pilot out of the helicopter and load him into one of their trucks. The leader pauses, looking down at one of the soldier corpses on the ground. It's reanimating already but Andrea and Michonne can't see this from their hiding spot, so they are horrified when they see the man stab what they think is an innocent corpse in the head. Michonne's zombies start to get agitated at all the commotion in the field in front of them and she coolly strikes off their heads before their location is discovered. The men get ready to leave the 'copter wreck and the hiding women think they are off the hook. But they're not - because standing right behind them, gun in the left hand, bayonet as the right hand, is good ol' Merle, alive and full of piss and vinegar. Andrea stares at him, not believing what she's seeing, and then faints dead away.
When she regains consciousness, she's in a clinic, being treated by a doctor. Michonne stands off to the side, silent, hostile and on the defensive. Merle comes in to chat with the women and it's clear that he's changed some: he's still a redneck asshole but his edges are not quite so rough. Andrea warms up enough to tell him what happened to their group - who all died (he remembers her sister's name and she is touched by this) and how Darryl has changed. "He's always been the sweet one, my baby brother," muses Merle.
After quite a bit of talking, the tall man in the vest comes in. Merle calls him "the Governor." He is soft-spoken but firm, with a gentle half-smile concealing an iron will, as he explains that the two women are guests, not prisoners ("Then give us back our weapons," snarls Michonne.), and they are welcome to leave in the morning if they wish, with their weapons, food, even a vehicle if they want one. He also brings them up to speed on the whole everyone-turns-into-a-biter-when-they-die thing, which they didn't know. "Welcome to Woodbury," says the Governor, walking them through the quiet, torch-lit streets of his little fortified town, heavily armed men patrolling the encircling wall. He shows them to their room - with a bed, clean clothes, food and hot running water - and tells them he'll see them in the morning.
In the morning, Andrea and Michonne learn that there are over seventy people living safely in Woodbury. People have jobs; they grow their own food; children go to school. Everyone obeys the strict curfews and the Governor's rules because they're safe - not a single casualty since winter. Michonne, as usual, looks suspicious, Andrea is more incredulous than anything.
Back at the clinic, the Governor is talking with the wounded pilot, who has woken up. He tells the Governor that there are ten more National Guardmen waiting out on the road for him (the 'copter was supposed to be scouting for survivors or somesuch and should have reported back). The Governor promises to go out and fetch the other Guardsmen back to town. After that, he goes to a lab where Merle and a geeky scientist-type are waiting for him. Merle tells him what he knows about Andrea and the Governor encourages him to talk with her again, to see what else he can find out about her former group. The lab guy has been examining the remains of Michonne's pet walkers and has learned this: (1) zombies do starve if not fed, but it takes longer than with humans, plus they get docile when they haven't eaten, (2) Michonne has been using the mutilated and harmless walkers as camouflage, since zombies aren't much interested in each other. The Governor and the lab guy (Milton?) are quite impressed with her resourcefulness.
A little later, the Governor has Andrea, Michonne and the lab guy over for breakfast (scrambled eggs). Andrea is warming up to him, talking with him, trying to figure him out, impressed with his vision of rebuilding civilization. All Michonne can do, however, is stare at her samurai sword, sitting there on a shelf in the Governor's kitchen. Afterwards, Andrea tries to get her companion to relax a little but Michonne is entirely resistant and anxious to get the hell out of Woodbury. She doesn't trust anyone here.
The Governor drives out to where the remaining National Guardsmen are holed up. He waves a white flag, saying that he rescued their pilot and is here to bring them in. And then he, and all his men who are hiding in the surrounding forest, shoot the shit out of all the poor Guardsmen, killing them all and none too humanely. In a particularly icky moment, the Governor crushes the skull of one of the fallen Guardsmen before he can reanimate - and he's a little too vehement about it for my taste. They collect all the weapons and check out the Guardsmen's vehicles. "Let's see what Uncle Sam brought us," the Governor says happily.
When the convoy gets back to Woodbury, the Governor makes a little speech to the assembled townsfolk, saying that when they got out to the convoy, the Guardsmen were already dead. But now they have new weapons, food and medicine, and other things the town needs. "We didn't know them but we'll honor their sacrifice by not taking what we have here for granted ... Be thankful for what you have, and watch out for each other." Michonne listens to this speech suspiciously. Andrea is taken in by it, however, and chats up the Governor afterwards, asking him what his real name is. He tells her that he never tells. "Never say never!" she chirps. The Governor, not smiling: "Never."
That night, after dinner, after the town has closed up for curfew, the Governor takes his glass of bourbon and goes into a padlocked room. He sits quietly, thinking about the day ... and staring at a wall of aquariums that bubble and glow, filling the room with an eerie light. Each tank holds several rotting human heads - including Michonne's two pets and the poor, now-deceased helicopter pilot. Dude, the Governor is just not right. (And for those of us who've read at least half the comics, we know it's just gonna get worse.)
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
12 hours ago